November 2010


By Rowan Scarborough

A conservative Congressman who saw combat in the war on terror is ripping the Obama administration for the lack of a unified plan to stop the No.-1 killer of Americans in Afghanistan: the improvised explosive device.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican, came out of a classified briefing at the Pentagon angry over the lack of leadership at the White House and in Kabul.

He told Human Events that there is still no single organization, or point man, in Afghanistan to coordinate counter-IED operations. As a result, field commanders implement varying types of techniques rather than the ones proven to work the best.

“There is no overall, overarching organization or person who’s in charge of going after the IEDs,” said Hunter, who was deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq as a Marine infantry officer.

Hunter has taken the lead in Congress in urging the Obama administration to adopt a counter-IED strategy known as ODIN—observe, detect, identify, neutralize—in Afghanistan.

The Army set up the first ODIN task force in Iraq with great results. In theory, the strategy is simple: Observe the roads on which troops travel. When an insurgent is confirmed to be placing an IED, kill him. In Hunter’s experience, killing the implanter works better than all the electronic gizmos, such as jammers or ground radars.

In fact, the general who heads the Pentagon’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) told reporters recently that a sniffing dog and a trooper—not some expensive gadget—were the best ways to find a buried explosive. Critics say JIEDDO has spent billions on unproven high-tech gear, when persistent surveillance of roads—and dogs—work better.

The NATO force in Afghanistan has divided operations into regional commands. Right now, most of the counter-insurgency fighting takes place in RC-East, on the border with the Taliban haven of Pakistan; RC-South, the home of Kandahar, the Taliban stronghold; and RC-Southwest, which includes the heroin-trafficking province of Helmand.

Hunter said that while RC-East has set up an ODIN task force and has got good results, commanders in the south and southwest have not committed fully to such an operation, day and night.

“I’m convinced there is no ODIN in the south and southwest,” the congressman said, “except in name only.”

The White House, or Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander, needs to appoint a czar in that country to force commanders to adopt ODIN, he said.

“The only metric I can go by [is,] are we taking more or fewer casualties from IEDs,” Hunter said. “Because it isn’t a matter of how many assets we have over there, [or] how many hours a day do these assets fly. It’s the operational control and implementation of the assets to go after what I see as the biggest threat in this war, which is the IEDs.”

Hunter has become alarmed over the spike in IED casualties. NATO and Afghan forces have suffered a record 657 fatalities in 2010, 344 of them by IEDs.

“There’s no coherent organizational structure or anything else over there that takes everything that we have, that knows everything that we have available to the warfighter and implements a kind of stand-alone organization like task force ODIN was for the Army,” Hunter said. “ODIN was not just a thought process that was observe the enemy, detect, identif[y] them and then kill them. ODIN was an actual set of tactics, techniques and procedures that used varied assets whether people on the roads using scopes, driving the roads all the time, mixed in with UAVs [drones], mixed in with fixed-wing aircraft and then having shooters, or quick-reaction forces or Cobras or Apaches to go get after them and prosecute the enemy when we saw them doing bad things. That’s what ODIN was. That’s what’s been lost in translation in Afghanistan.”

When Hunter asked his Pentagon briefers from JIEDDO and U.S. Central Command why Afghanistan lacked an IED point man, they answered that they were powerless to make the change. It’s up to commanders in the field.

“There’s nobody in JEIDDO who can make anyone do anything,” the re-elected Congressman said. “They could come up with the silver bullet that fixes everything and they can’t make a single person use it if the ground commander doesn’t want to. “
Hunter, a Marine officer in the Reserves, has a passion for the IED issue. Last summer he became concerned that the Afghani troop surge was lacking a comprehensive approach to the deadly homemade bombs.

He wrote to Gen. Petraeus on July 1, saying, “Regrettably, unlike Iraq, our forces in Afghanistan seem to lack a clear and coherent counter-IED strategy to combat this threat … . We firmly believe that the lessons learned from Task Force ODIN in Iraq can be replicated in Afghanistan, dramatically reducing casualties due to IEDs.”

Petraeus wrote back July 13, giving Hunter no firm commitment and chiding him a bit for trying to replicate Iraq operations in Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan is not Iraq,” the four-star general said, “and we have to be careful not to oversimplify the challenges here based on our experience in Iraq.”

Petraeus added a handwritten paragraph that the Pentagon had just approved “$3 B worth of C-IED equipment into Afghanistan, as well.”

Nearly six months later, Hunter is still waiting for a comprehensive approach, as more troops die or are severely wounded by
IEDs.

“They have a lot on their plates, I would guess,” he said of Obama, Petraeus, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Pathos laden poor little illegal alien invader tripe By SUSAN CARROLL
HOUSTON CHRONICLE

Inside a conference room in the towering Marathon Oil building near the Galleria, a 17-year-old boy from El Salvador smiled demurely at the two lawyers grilling him about his grades.

He’s doing very well this semester, he insisted, earning A’s and B’s across the board in his Pasadena high school classes. Except, he admitted with a slight grimace, algebra.

On one side of the conference table sat Victoria Mora, a 31-year-old pro bono coordinator with Kids In Need of Defense, a national nonprofit that helps pair pro bono attorneys with unaccompanied immigrant children in the U.S. Across from her sat, Luecretia Dillard, a seasoned attorney with Marathon Oil, who had never taken on an immigration case until she met the young man at the head of the table.

The two attorneys, with help from others with KIND, had helped to shepherd the teenager through the complex U.S. immigration system and were preparing for a final hearing before a judge in January. Asked about his odds of winning his immigration case, the boy grew quiet.

“I’m a little afraid,” said the teenager, who requested to remain anonymous, saying he fled gang violence in El Salvador, where the notorious MS-13 dominated his small town of La Union, El Carmen.

Thousands in need

Each year, about 7,000 to 9,500 illegal immigrant children and teenagers are detained crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally without immediate family members. Although many are returned to the care of relatives in their home countries, thousands end up in U.S. immigration courts without attorneys to represent them or parents to support them.

In January 2009, the Microsoft Corporation and actress Angelina Jolie founded KIND, which aims to provide legal representation for 100 percent of unaccompanied children in the areas of the country where the need is greatest, including Houston, by the end of 2010.

Wendy Young, KIND’s executive director, said the organization has helped some 2,200 children and teenagers nationally, including 220 in Houston. But, she said, the need is much greater, particularly in Texas, which is home to the largest number of unaccompanied immigrant children shelters in the country.

“The cases are just pouring through our doors,” Young said.

Help for kids and lawyers

KIND helps connect immigrant children with pro-bono attorneys who may not specialize in immigration law but are willing to take the cases for free, Young said. KIND’s attorneys help mentor the volunteers, providing expertise on immigration-related issues and other services, such as translation.

Dillard, who took on the El Salvadoran boy’s case in the spring of 2009, said she read an e-mail from a KIND coordinator describing his situation “and it just broke my heart.” The boy was 15 when he was placed in the Conroe shelter and said he has no memory of his mother or father. He had an aunt in Houston, a legal immigrant, who offered to take him in, but he could not legally stay in the U.S. without help.

So Dillard, with aid from KIND, started the complex process of applying on the boy’s behalf for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, which requires a certification from a Texas court that a child has been abused, abandoned or neglected. With a decree from the Texas court, Dillard said she is now preparing for his federal immigration hearing.

She said she would be “a fish out of water” without help from Mora, the pro bono coordinator for KIND.

On Tuesday morning, after being questioned about his grades, the teenager thanked the two lawyers for their help, saying he feels safe with them. As a kind of afterthought, he jokingly asked Dillard if she’d ever lost a case.

She smiled, and told him she’s never lost an immigration one.

By Daily Mail Reporter

Six Nato troops have been shot dead in Afghanistan by a man who was disguised in police border uniform.

The shooting took place during a training exercise today and was described as the worse ‘rouge’ shooting in the area for more than a year.

The incident, in the Nangarhar province which borders Pakistan, appeared to be the latest in a string of recent attacks by renegade police and soldiers.

Nato-led troops have been trying to train Afghan forces rapidly to allow the handover of security responsibility from next year.

However, Nato and Afghan officials were unable to confirm whether the shooter, who was killed, was actually a member of the border police or if it was an insurgent who had infiltrated the Afghan security forces.

Neither would they reveal the nationalities of those who were killed, though it is thought they might be American, as many U.S. troops are based in the Nangarhar region.

Afghan authorities said last year they were tightening vetting procedures for the police and army after a similar incident when a renegade soldier killed five British troops on November 3, 2009.

It was the worst daily casualty toll suffered by International Security Assistance Forces since eight troops were killed in five separate incidents on October 14.

Earlier this month, U.S. and Nato leaders agreed to a timeline set by Afghan President Hamid Karzai for foreign forces to end combat operations in Afghanistan by 2014.

Barack Obama, who will review his Afghanistan war strategy next month, has said Washington will begin a gradual down scale of its forces from July 2011.

At least 2,238 foreign troops have been killed in Afghanistan since the Taliban government was toppled by Afghan forces in November 2001.

More than 660 troops have been killed in 2010 – by far the bloodiest year of the war.

Washington Examiner

By Thomas Joscelyn

Once again, the world is anticipating a massive leak of classified documents by WikiLeaks. The U.S. State Department is so concerned that it has published a letter addressed to the head of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and his attorney, arguing that publication of the documents will “risk the lives of countless innocent individuals,” “[p]lace at risk on-going military operations,” and “[p]lace at risk on-going cooperation between countries.” The letter is signed by Harold Koh, a far left lawyer who serves as legal adviser to the State Department.

Whereas the Defense Department has led the way in objecting to WikiLeaks’ publication of classified documents in the past, the State Department is out in front this time for a good reason. According to press reports, the latest cache includes approximately 250,000 diplomatic cables. As in the past, the documents have been leaked to mostly friendly news organizations so they can review and report on them — and cherry-pick them, too.

Amid the mostly dull and insignificant documents there will be some interesting nuggets of information. WikiLeaks and the press promise to reveal these nuggets to us over the next week, with a staggered publication schedule that is designed to keep WikiLeaks in the news.

That means WikiLeaks’ spin on the documents will also be in the news, or entirely frame the news, and this leads us to a word of caution.

Assange intends to embarrass the U.S. with this release. But his spin on the documents will surely be skewed by his transparent anti-Americanism, just as his spin on previous leaks has been in the past.

Journalists covering WikiLeaks would be wise to remember that when Assange released a trove of documents concerning the war in Afghanistan he said they would reveal that America is guilty of “thousands” of possible war crimes.

They did nothing of the sort.

And when Assange released even more documents concerning the war in Iraq, the press repeated an entirely false claim that the documents demonstrate that 285,000 people were killed in the war. The press was also quick to highlight any American mistakes revealed in the documents, especially with respect to civilian casualties.

The real story is that the documents demonstrate — unambiguously — that the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties were caused by Iraq’s and America’s terrorist enemies, as well as “criminal events,” not by the U.S. military.

Undoubtedly, the documents will generate some interesting stories. For instance, some press accounts have hinted that the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts with respect to closing Guantanamo may be detailed in Foggy Bottom’s correspondences. But one story that will surely receive less attention than it deserves is how Julian Assange’s narrative all too often becomes the media’s.

By Diana Clark  

Communists no longer hide what they’re doing.  Now they boldly spout their anti-American rhetoric at every opportunity.  In fact, some of them are openly calling for an armed revolution now, to bring down our Republic – while hiding behind the very Constitution they seek to destroy.

They deny us our First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech and Press, while claiming its protection for themselves.  They squelch any expression of our religious belief or patriotism, while demanding the freedom to spread THEIR lies.

They seek to deny our Second Amendment right to Keep and Bear Arms – our right to self-defense – while they will use violence to impose their will on the rest of us.

That’s not new, of course.  But for generations, their efforts were fruitless in America, so what changed the situation?  The answer is simple: their diligence, and our lack of it.  They stuck to their game plan, and carried out the steps of the Communist Manifesto:

  • They infiltrated and gained control of the mainstream media, so that they control the message the public receives, and consequently, what the public thinks.
  • They gained control of education, so that they dictate what our children are taught and can insure that future generations are totally indoctrinated in Leftist ideology.
  • They gained control of banking and industry, so that THEY determine who has money and employment, and who does not.
  • And they infiltrated our government to the highest levels of authority, and either have or seek control of all food and energy sources, transportation and health care, as well.

THAT is the way it’s done, Folks, and they were diligent about it.  They were patient, and didn’t slack off, or get distracted.

But we did.  We got complacent, and took our Republic and the Freedoms ensured by our Constitution for granted.  We thought we couldn’t lose it, so we didn’t bother to protect it.  DWTS and celebrity underwear “malfunctions” became more important – so WE got caught with ours down.

The British statesman, Edmund Burke, said, “All it takes for evil men to succeed is for good men to do nothing”.  Well, guess what?  They have, because we didn’t.  So now what?

Leadership of the Democrat Party is in the iron grip of militant, America-hating Leftists intent on dismantling our Republic

This isn’t going to end well.  The rank-and-file Democrat is a decent blue-collar type who just wants security for his family.  But the leadership of the Democrat Party is in the iron grip of militant, America-hating Leftists intent on dismantling our Republic.  To them, the rest of us – Democrat and Republican – are just tools to use, abuse, or destroy, because nothing matters but their goal: the destruction of America.

Look at the Communist nations.  They publicly claim “Equality for the People”, but there are only two kinds of people there:  the elite, “insider” members of the the Communist Party – and everybody else.

In Communist countries, Party members have special stores to shop in… special areas to live in… even traffic lanes only they can use.  They enjoy rights, privileges, products and services that they deny to the rest of the citizens.

Here, our taxpaying citizens – the VICTIMS of terrorism – must submit to Body Scans and sexual assault just to board an airliner.  Moreover, DHS is expanding these police state tactics to train and bus stations, as well!  Not to worry – certain “special” people are getting a pass on these intrusive searches – IF they’re in good with the government.  Charlie Rangel tells us to pay our taxes, but doesn’t pay his own.  Congress tells us that WE must tighten our belts and do without, while they squander our tax dollars on luxury for themselves.

Now, someone tell me the difference between our government, and that of Russia, Venezuela, China and Cuba.  Oh, wait – I know!  Ours isn’t executing people in the streets – YET.

America’s enemies saw victory in sight – they could taste it.  But in the mid-term elections, they lost control of the House, and they realized that true, loyal Americans are not going to go down quietly.

Our Founders wrote the Second Amendment to insure that our citizens could put up armed resistance to any attack by “enemies, foreign or domestic”.  So we patriots hold fast to our private gun ownership.  And we laugh when rank-and-file Liberals threaten us, because we know they’ve been brainwashed to be “peaceniks”, who are scared to death of guns!

But hard-core Communists aren’t.  Remember the Tiananmen Square Massacre?  They slaughtered their own without hesitation, because the Party doesn’t accept “No” as an answer.  And in the recent elections, we just said “No” to their plans for America.

No matter how we try to avoid it, armed conflict is coming – because our enemies will deliberately bring it.  They WILL get violent, because that’s what Communists do

So brace yourselves.  No matter how we try to avoid it, armed conflict is coming – because our enemies will deliberately bring it.  They WILL get violent, because that’s what Communists do.  That’s the standard next phase of a Communist take-over, and the only “peaceful resolution” they want is your surrender. 

Our Founders gave us the tools, and the battle plan.  See to your own, be prepared, and may God bless and keep you and yours. 

Family affair: The whole Obama family spend some quality time together at the basketball game

While rather busy destroying the United States (and her allies) and when not playing basketball in the midst of his destruction… Barack Hussein, Michelle Antoinette  (with daughters Malaria and Sasquatch) take a break to attend a Howard University and Oregon State basketball game yesterday. Perdy, ain’t they? Just sayin.

Times Leader

HARRISBURG — Gov. Ed Rendell on Saturday vetoed a bill that he feared would escalate violent acts by expanding a person’s rights in Pennsylvania to use deadly force, even when safe retreat is possible, if feeling threatened outside their home.

Rendell criticized the bill as a dangerous solution to a nonexistent problem that would encourage a “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality.

“I do not believe that in a civilized society we should encourage violent and deadly confrontation when the victim can safely protect themselves” through retreat, Rendell wrote in his veto message released Saturday. “As keepers of the public trust, we have the solemn duty to protect our citizenry, not put them in harm’s way, and to protect the sanctity of human life.”

The veto was one of three bills that Rendell vetoed Saturday.

The measure broadening Pennsylvania’s so-called Castle Doctrine also would have offered immunity against civil lawsuits to people who could show that they acted within the law’s guidelines.

Under current law in Pennsylvania, the use of deadly force in self-defense is not justifiable when safe retreat is possible, unless a person is attacked in their home or workplace, Rendell said.

The vetoed bill said, in part, that “no person should be required to surrender his or her personal safety to a criminal, nor should a person be required to needlessly retreat in the face of intrusion or attack outside the person’s home or vehicle.”

A number of states have Castle Doctrine laws, although most limit the use of deadly force in self-defense to the home or private property.

The term-limited Democrat, who leaves office Jan. 18, took action on the bill Saturday, the last possible day he could have vetoed it before it would have become law automatically.

The timing of Rendell’s veto left a tiny opening for lawmakers to reconvene to try to override the veto, which would require a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber before the current Legislature expires at midnight Tuesday. But House Speaker Keith McCall has no intention of recalling the chamber’s members, a spokesman said Saturday.

The new Legislature is seated in January and the bill can be reintroduced then.

It passed the Senate, 45-4, in October and the House, 161-35, earlier this month. Republican Gov.-elect Tom Corbett has said he would have signed it.

The bill was supported by the National Rifle Association but opposed by the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.

However, Rendell was conflicted because the state Senate had packaged the self-defense elements into a wider bill with separate provisions to update the registration requirements of homeless and out-of-state sexual offenders, which he supported.

On Saturday, Rendell also vetoed two other bills. One would have limited public access to reports by county coroners and the other would have expanded health insurance coverage for firefighters diagnosed with certain types of cancer.

Rendell said the latter bill’s presumption that a firefighter’s cancer diagnosis resulted from their work — for instance, coming into contact with toxic chemicals after entering a burning building — is substantially wider than laws in other states and out of step with most occupational injuries or diseases. It also could prohibitively inflate the insurance costs of municipal governments, he said.

County coroners have clashed with newspapers in Pennsylvania seeking the release of reports on deaths, and the Supreme Court has ordered that the reports must be made public, unless a judge grants a coroner’s request to seal it.

The Washington Examiner

By Lt. Gen. John F. Kelly–United States Marine Corps

Given the opportunity to do another 9/11, our merciless enemy would do it today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter.

I don’t know why they hate us, and I don’t care. We have a saying in the Marine Corps that there is “no better friend, no worse enemy, than a U.S. Marine.” We always hope for the first, friendship, but are certainly more than ready for the second. If it’s death they want, it’s death they will get, and the Marines will continue showing them the way to hell if that’s what will make them happy.

Our country is in a life and death struggle against an evil enemy, but America as a whole is certainly not at war. Only a tiny fraction — less than a percent — shoulder the burden of fear and sacrifice, and they shoulder it for the rest of us. What are they like in combat in this war? In my three tours in combat as an infantry officer and commanding general, I never saw one of them hesitate, or do anything other than lean into the fire and with no apparent fear take the fight to our enemies.

We can take comfort in the fact that these young Americans are not born killers, but are good and decent young men and women who have performed remarkable acts of bravery and selflessness to a cause they have decided is bigger and more important than themselves. Only a few months ago they were delivering your paper, stocking shelves in the local grocery store, worshiping in church on Sunday, or playing hockey on local ice. Like my own two sons who are Marines and have fought in Iraq, and today in Sagin, Afghanistan, they are also the same kids that drove their cars too fast for your liking, and played the god-awful music of their generation too loud. But have no doubt, they are the finest of their generation.

Let me describe an incident that shows what kind of people they are. Two years ago, when I was the commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, two Marine infantry battalions were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion was in the closing days of its deployment, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour. Two Marines, Cpl. Jonathan Yale and Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines. The same broken-down ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, our allies in the fight against the terrorists in Ramadi, until recently the most dangerous city on Earth. Yale was a dirt-poor, mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him. He supported them all on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter was a middle-class white kid from Long Island. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple Americas exist simultaneously depending on one’s race, education level, economic status, and where you were born. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers.

The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went something like: “OK you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass. You clear?” I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like: “Yes Sergeant,” with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, “No kidding sweetheart, we know what we’re doing.” They then took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, al Anbar, Iraq.

A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alleyway, which was perhaps 60 to 70 yards in length, and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest 200 yards away knocking most of a house down before it stopped. Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives.

I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police all of whom told the same story. They all said, “We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing.” The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and then ran for safety just before the explosion. All survived. Many were injured, some seriously. As one of the Iraqis explained, they had merely done what any “normal man” would do – run for his life. “What I didn’t know until then,” he said, “and what I learned at that very instant, was that Marines are not normal.” Choking past the emotion, he said, “Sir, in the name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did. They saved us all.”

What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras recorded some of the suicide attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis had described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated.

I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: “Let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” The two Marines had about five seconds left to live.

It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim and open up. By this time the truck was halfway through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, scattering like the normal and rational men they were, some running right past the Marines. The Marines had three seconds left to live.

For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing nonstop, the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds took it apart and tore into the body of the son-of-a-bitch who was trying to get past them. The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence, Yale and Haerter never hesitated. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.

The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God. Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty, into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight — for you.

This article is adapted from a speech that Lt. Gen. John F. Kelly delivered in St. Louis on Nov. 13, four days after his son, Robert M. Kelly, was killed in action in Afghanistan. The younger Kelly was on his third combat tour, his first as a second lieutenant, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines.

His brother is also a Marine.

The full text of the speech is available here  

  SF Gate

Oakland is poised to join a handful of cities in creating a municipal identification card that is touted primarily as a way for illegal immigrants to prove their identity.

But unlike programs in other locales, Oakland’s plan will be the first in the nation to create an alternative banking system for the poor, with the ID doubling as a full-service debit card.

Card holders will be able to load money onto their cards, freeing them from the vulnerability of walking around with cash or relying on costly check-cashing outlets.

“This will probably be the most advanced municipal ID in the country,” said Councilwoman and Mayor-elect Jean Quan, who has driven the effort alongside Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente.

While the debit card function is intended to help illegal immigrants, others see the card’s varied uses as a way to broaden interest. That, they say, will prevent a municipal ID card from being a scarlet letter.

“We want to make sure that it’s not just another way of identifying people who don’t have documentation,” said Councilwoman Nancy Nadel.

Oakland is not the first city to try to make municipal ID cards part of the fabric of nonimmigrants’ lives.

An ID offered by San Francisco doubles as a library card and provides discounts at certain businesses. The Washington, D.C., card has a slew of functions and can be used to pay for public transit. New Haven, Conn., which implemented the first municipal ID in 2007, allows residents to use the card at parking meters.

Claudia Burgos, an aide to De La Fuente, said Oakland hopes to start issuing cards by March, after the council earlier this month awarded a contract to SF Global Group, a Los Angeles company that operates prepaid banking systems. The card would cost $15, or $10 for seniors and students.

Unlike a typical debit card, the Oakland ID can be loaded with up to $1,000 at a time at participating stores. Unlimited amounts can be added via payroll direct deposit.

In addition, SF Global Group and the council hope to expand the card’s uses to include city libraries, Children’s Fairyland and the Oakland Museum of California, and may offer them to schoolchildren. In Washington, D.C., every public school student has one, said Elias Enciso, director of business development for SF Global Group.

“It’s a card that can serve all Oakland residents,” Enciso said. “Because it’s a debit card, it would serve many U.S. citizens who have been kicked out of the banking system.”

Similar ID cards have prompted fierce opposition elsewhere. But when the City Council chose SF Global to distribute the cards, not one person spoke in opposition.

Oakland police officials have voiced support, while requesting that the cards feature strong protections against fraud and insisting that it not be allowed as a substitute for a driver’s license. The proposed Oakland cards will have several security features, like watermarks and ultraviolet ink.

As currently proposed, however, the cards will not include physical characteristics like height, weight, hair color and eye color. Enciso says there’s time to change that.

“Ultimately, the city will determine what they want the card to look like,” Enciso said.

Only Councilman Larry Reid, who worried that the cards would worsen the city’s budget crisis, spoke in opposition when the ordinance authorizing the cards came before the council last year. However, because the program is being outsourced, Oakland’s ID cards aren’t expected to cost the city a penny.

Among those looking forward to the cards is Margarida Villegas, 47, who has lived in the United States for 20 years.

Her husband and children are legal residents, but she’s not. Part of the reason, she said, is that she lost critical legal paperwork in Mexico. As a result, she can’t open a bank account.

Earlier this year, she was stopped by police for a traffic violation, prompting officers to say they needed to impound her car. Luckily for her, she was able to call her husband, who identified her.

“I want to be able to identify myself,” she said.

Story Here

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